Trouble Zones: Mapping Africa’s Relentless Waves of Crisis

Members of the military council that staged a coup in Niger

Africa is known as the world’s misery. The continent has endured centuries of colonial rule, post-colonial misgovernance, ethnic warfare, dictatorships, corruption, militancy, natural disasters, etc. Recently, the conflict in Sudan and the military coup in Niger have emerged as new causes for concern in Africa. Likewise, the involvement of major powers significantly affects the waves of crisis.

The 26th of July was not like any other day in Niger. It was reported that morning by the Niger Army that the country’s current president, Mohamed Bazoum, had been deposed in a coup. When they seized power, Niger’s military abolished parliament and national constitutions and locked national borders.

Nonetheless, the sudden coup appeared as a bolt from the blue for the Niger people, Western policymakers, and the UN. Since Bazoum was a dependable Western ally, the West had provided him with substantial cash and logistical assistance to empower him to battle against terrorists in West Africa. Yet the fall of Bazoum has raised concerns that jihadists may reestablish a foothold in Niger. The existence of jihadist bases in neighboring countries has exacerbated the security concern. 

However, the current year has witnessed another major political crisis in Africa: the confrontation in Sudan. The conflict has occurred between the Sudan Armed Forces, headed by Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces, led by Hemedti. Since April 2023, both combatants have been vying for the presidency of Sudan, bringing the country to the verge of civil war.

The impasse has already caused a humanitarian catastrophe, killing over a thousand people, displacing over 3 million people, and evicting over 700,000 people from Sudan. Further, civilian airstrikes, food and water shortages, and ethnic murders have been reported up to this point.

Hamedti and Burhan are charged with playing notorious roles in the Darfur genocide. Both were incredibly reliable in Omar Al-Bashir’s eyes. But by dethroning Bashar from office in 2019, both admirers of Bashar renounced their allegiance. Since then, the two warlords have been stuck in a conundrum that is currently turning into a civil war.

Terrorism and armed warfare have also escalated throughout Africa in recent years. The widespread fanaticism of Boko Haram in Nigeria is a prime instance. They have committed numerous human rights breaches, including mass kidnapping, sexual assault, forced marriage, and using children as human shields. Furthermore, multifaceted battles between the national military, Boko Haram, and regional rebels have killed approximately 350,000 people and displaced approximately three million Nigerians.

Similarly, Al-Shabab’s terrorism has long been a concern in East Africa. Al-Shabab has made armed confrontations commonplace in Somalia, displacing 3.8 million Somalis. The militant group has carried out egregious operations in Kenya and Ethiopia, and they recently slew 54 peacekeepers in Uganda. Even though the United States has contributed billions of dollars to curbing Al-Shabab’s militancy, Al-Shabab’s decade-long experience has boosted its battlefield morale.

The food crisis has reached catastrophic proportions in Africa. Particularly in the Horn of Africa, 23 million people are famished due to severe food shortages. Somalia alone has 6.5 million people needing food and water. In contrast, Ethiopia estimates that 3.5 million people require essential food and water supplies. Additionally, 4.4 million Kenyans have had similar experiences as their neighbors.

Drought, worldwide inflation, famine, skyrocketing food expenses, the storm of locusts, etc., have all contributed to the inability of African peasants to farm crops. The global food supply chain has been completely disrupted as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. Consequently, millions across Africa suffer, and numerous children die from malnutrition.

Furthermore, climate change has impacted the entire continent for years. Every year, millions of Africans are coerced to flee their homeland due to climate change. Deforestation, massive industrialization, carbon dioxide emissions, the extinction of flora and fauna, etc., all contribute to the acceleration of climate change. Thus, the temperature and sea levels are increasing, and severe natural disasters are driving Africans from their homes.

Nevertheless, North Africa once provided Africa with optimism through the Arab Spring. Demonstrations, protests, and the overthrow of autocrats in this region exemplified the people’s demand for democracy and liberty. But the post-Arab Spring period has been deteriorating the dream wholly.

Even Tunisia, the Arab world’s shining emblem of the Arab dream, has returned to Kais Saied’s dictatorial rule. Contrarily, jihadists and militias that have sparked upheaval in North African territory have turned Libya into their haven.

And due to political unrest and hostility, human traffickers have been transporting migrants across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. The influx of irregular migrants into Europe has urged them to secure themselves from war, conflict, and climatic disturbances and attain better livelihoods. Hence, Europe attempts to negotiate with North African nations to curtail migrants’ dangerous journeys to Europe.

Over the years, major powers in Africa have been identified. Historically, France was an important thespian in Africa. Since 2013, it has conducted operations in the Sahel. But the emergence of military juntas in West Africa prompted the conclusion of its missions in the region. In particular, Mali, France’s key base in the region, fell under a despotic regime, and relations between France and Mali deteriorated. For this reason, Macron concluded France’s decade-long mission against militants in West Africa in 2022.

Amid rising insecurity, authoritarians in Africa are looking for new partners to shake hands. A fervent example is Russia.

President Putin has taken advantage of the continuous turmoil in Africa to cement his sway over the continent. Putin is already an icon among Africa’s military dictators. He even deployed the ruthless Wagner mercenaries to back up the tyrants and make himself a reliable ally.

This organization is active in the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mozambique, Mali, and Libya. These nations rely heavily on Wagner to eliminate political opponents and insurgencies and to brainwash people through misinformation. Hence, as a great power, Russia can’t deny its role in fanning the flames.

China is also regarded as a significant artist in the drama. Africa is integral to Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) implementation. China is bearing the onus of broader development in Africa to carry out the megaproject. 

We can’t, however, claim that Xi’s intentions in Africa are noble. China has ensnared African countries in a debt crisis by engaging them in development projects. Due to the countries’ inability to repay Chinese loans, China has seized strategic ports and locations. Consequently, impoverished African nations are in a dire financial state.

In a nutshell, political instability and other difficulties impede the pursuit of peace on the African continent. Terrorism, climate adversity, internal political conflicts, etc., have escalated so that African leaders are uncertain about how to proceed. Additionally, the involvement of major powers demonstrates that their presence will not result in future positive developments. Therefore, the African people are ultimately responsible for the change. Their participation and willingness can bring optimism to the continent.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Policy Watcher’s editorial stance.

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